Friday, February 24, 2012

The Return of Civil Liberties // Rep. Chris Van Hollen & Rep. Andy Harris Unite to Fight Indefinite Detention of U.S. Citizens

Maryland Juice has been dismayed at the Democratic retreat on civil liberties in recent years. Remember when party leaders railed about the Patriot Act, overblown "anti-terror" policies, government surveillance and such during the Bush-Cheney-Ashcroft years?

For several years now, it seems like the Dems have just been blowing smoke. We've watched on the sidelines as they repeatedly reauthorized the worst provisions of the Patriot Act and sat stunned as the party gutted Constitutional protections on habeas corpus. Forbes recently published an article summarizing how we slid this far down the slippery slope. They discuss the controversial "National Defense Authorization Act" (NDAA) that President Obama signed into law recently. The expansion of powers would allow the U.S. government to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely without trial:
The National Defense Authorization Act greatly expands the power and scope of the federal government to fight the War on Terror, including codifying into law the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects without trial. Under the new law the US military has the power to carry out domestic anti-terrorism operations on US soil.

“The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it,” the president said in a statement. “I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.”

Worse, the NDAA authorizes the military to detain even US citizens under the broad new anti-terrorism provisions provided in the bill, once again without trial....

“Obama’s signing statement seems to suggest he already believe he has the authority to indefinitely detain Americans—he just never intends to use it,” Adam Serwer writes at Mother Jones. “Left unsaid, perhaps deliberately, is the distinction that has dominated the debate over the defense bill: the difference between detaining an American captured domestically or abroad. This is why ACLU Director Anthony Romero released a statement shortly after Obama’s arguing the authority in the defense bill could “be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield.”

In December, Rep. Chris Van Hollen released the following statement regarding the NDAA's indefinite detention provisons:
It is with great regret that I rise to oppose this Defense Authorization Conference Report.  This is the first Defense Authorization Conference Report I have opposed since I was first elected in 2002.

...certain provisions leave open the possibility that innocent U.S. citizens could be wrongfully and indefinitely detained at the direction of the president without appropriate access to civilian courts....   

If Congress is going to spell out the rules of arrest and detention, it should have made clear that American citizens may not be indefinitely detained without due process of law. 

How U.S. citizens are to be treated when detained as terror suspects and the question of jurisdictional leadership during terror-related arrests are matters of such supreme national consequence that they should not have been expeditiously appended to a National Defense Authorization Conference Report.

Today, we hear news that Rep. Chris Van Hollen has joined with Tea Party Rep. Andy Harris to fight the NDAA. How's that for bi-partisanship? Maryland Juice has continued to encourage the Maryland GOP officials to reject the divisive social battles that they seem to be so fond of, and instead focus on finding civil liberties issues to work on. Otherwise, they risk making permanent their status as a regional party in Maryland. Perhaps this is the first step. See HR3676 -- the bill to restore habeas corpus -- below:

HR 3676 - Legislation to Prevent Indefinite Detention of U.S Citizens Under the NDAA

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